Blaklion Can Go Well In Hennessy

The Hennessy Gold Cup is often the most eagerly anticipated National Hunt race outside of Cheltenham for many purists and this season’s renewal looks set to be a thriller.

Native River heads the betting after following up his Cheltenham runner-up effort with a superb performance at Aintree. His reappearance behind Silsol at Wetherby on his return was a cracking effort over the smaller obstacles and that should see him spot on for Saturday.

Will he give Colin Tizzard another big Saturday winner after Cue Card’s tremendous effort last week? Possibly, but we’ll be cheering for a different result. Sorry, Colin.

A horse that Native River got the better of at Aintree, Blaklion, is a horse who can’t be ignore and he should also arrive in full fitness.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ 7-y-o ran a nice enough race in the Charlie Hall, travelling strongly until fading in the home straight. He looked as though he was in need of the run but moved nicely and jumped well on ground that was less than ideal.

He has ran extremely well with plenty of cut in the ground, with a wide-margin win at Wetherby in February (with Native River 18l back in third) and a solid effort behind the classy Seeyouatmidnight in the Dipper suggested he may appreciate Saturday’s likely surface.

He put in a huge effort at Aintree, when third behind Native River, given how hard a race he had when outbattling Shaneshill to win the RSA at Cheltenham. He left little behind that day and he showed tremendous class to go as close as he did on Merseyside.

After a nice break, his Wetherby effort was enough to suggest he has retained plenty of ability, with the 3m 2f trip around soft ground on Newbury looking ideal. He will be allowed to gallop on in behind Smad Place and he can showcase his lovely jumping and strong-travelling characteristics.

At a current 10/1, he looks a solid each-way bet, especially with a number of firms offering five and in some cases, six places.

Selection:

1pt e.w (Hennessy Gold Cup): Blaklion @ 10/1 (various, Paddy Power and Sky Bet paying 5 and 6 places).

Follow Don Poli On Grand National Trail

After another emotional weekend at Cheltenham, the dust has begun to settle. Nicky Henderson’s stable star Sprinter Sacre was retired after a glistening caterer before Simonsig’a resurgence was tragically cut short after a fall on Sunday. It shows the lows of the game and my thoughts are with all at Seven Barrows.

Looking to the future, Nicky will have a number of big runners to try and have some small silver lining, with My Tent Or Yours and Vyta Du Roc looking to hold major claims shortly.

However today I’m looking slightly further ahead, bypassing even the Cheltenham Festival. The Grand National is a race for the nation, that the purists aren’t too keen on overly investing it.

With 30 fences and four and a half miles to travel, there is plenty that can go wrong but with recent moderation, fallers are rarer than ever.

So, it may be worth taking a small punt on a horse that looks tailor made for the race, given his class and scope to enjoy a stamina sapping trip.

That horse, is last years Cheltenham Gold Cup third, Don Poli. Having won twice at the Cheltenham Festival precious to that, including a staying-on effort in the RSA Chase, he’s proven he has tons of ability, though it’s always been fairly obvious that he’s not a horse blessed with raw speed.

Often referred to a ‘boat’, Don Poli stays on gamely in nearly all of his races, shown to full effect in last years Gold Cup, when he was woefully outpaced before rattling up the hill to take third.

A true test looks ideal for him and connections gave him a spin at Aintree last year, where he looked a sitting duck for the strong travelling Many Clouds (that years Grand National winner), before out battling him despite saddle problems.

It may have been a run to test out suitability for the track with a future Grand National run in mind and given Gigginstown often have a strong hand in the race (won it last year with Rule The World), it looks likely that Don Poli will have his season plotted around Aintree in April.

He has moved to Gordon Elliot’s yard after Michae O’Leary moved his horses from Willie Mullins and this may not be a bad thing with Aintree in mind.

Elliot sprung on to the scene as an exuberant young trainer as Silver Birch won the Grand National back in 2007, in a campaign that showed he could get one ready for its big day.

Mullins had struggled with Iuck and finding the ‘right horse’ at Aintree, so a move to Elliot could be a blessing for his National chances.

His last run is a slight concern, given he failed to show any remnants of last seasons quality but he was hampered and he is sure to strip fitter for that effort.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him revert to hurdles for a spell and maybe try his hand in a couple of big chases, which could see his mark slip for a crack at the big one in April.

Don Poli is currently available at 25/1, which seems fair at this point in time and bet365 are already offering five places.

Selection: Grand National – Don Poli @ 25/1 (Various)

Lancaster Bomber Can Land Breeders’ Cup Success

For two days every year, European eyes are cast across the Atlantic as the US of A put on two fantastic cards of racing.

Ok, ok, Friday’s action may well be an amuse bouche for Saturday’s super-size main course, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it just as much.

Despite a rather underwhelming European challenge to this year’s Breeders’ Cup party, Friday sees a couple of major chances, including Lancaster Bomber in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Aidan O’Brien’s number one participant in the race appears to be Intelligence Cross, who has twice finished credibly behind the impressive Mehmas, before being rather tentatively handled when running on well in the Middle Park Stakes last time out.

He has the added bonus of Ryan Moore in the plate and it is obvious to see why he will undoubtedly prove popular. However the performance of his stablemate, Lancaster Bomber, last time out, mean it is hard to ignore his glaring chances from stall one.

After underperforming on softer surfaces he was given what looked to be a ‘pacemaking’ role on his last two starts. On a quick surface, he has battled on well after coming under pressure finishing nine-lengths behind Classic favourite, Churchill, before closing the gap to just one-and-a-quarter lengths at Newmarket.

He was sent off at 66/1 in the Dewhurst, after being expected to ensure a fair pace before falling back through the field. As expected, he came under pressure a fair way out as the strong-travelling Churchill moved past him. However, as he looked set to trickle back tamely, he changed gears and stayed on well to retake second and close on the eventual impressive winner, finishing eye-catchingly well.

Rivet, who was back in fifth, has since come out and franked the form by winning the Racing Post Trophy and it may well turn out to be a very strong race.

Lancaster Bomber steps up to a mile at Santa Anita and this should be perfect. Stall one could be a blessing as it now gives Seamie Heffernan added emphasis to pop him out and make the running. He will be a hard horse to pass if he can kick off the bend and at 7/1, he looks fair value to even make the frame.

Elsewhere on the opening evening, La Coronel could be worth a second look in the Juvenile Fillies’ Turf. The European raiders are to the fore in the market but the manner in with the American filly picked up to win on her last two starts was very impressive.

If she hadn’t have underwhelmed during her first two starts (still not terrible runs) she could be shorter. A draw of 14 is far from ideal however, but it’s not impossible to overcome as Hit It A Bomb showed last year. Expect her to strike late and at 9/1, she could go well.

Selections:

1.5pt win – Lancaster Bomber (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf) @ 7/1 (Various)

0.5pt win – La Coronel (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf) @ 9/1 (Various)